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The History of Printing and Conventional printing technology
The History of Printing and Conventional printing technology

Printing is a process for reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest examples include Cylinder seals and other objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The earliest known form of woodblock printing came from China dating to before 220 A.D. Later developments in printing include the movable type, first developed by Bi Sheng in China. The printing press, a more efficient printing process for western languages with their more limited alphabets, was developed by Johannes Gutenberg in the fifteenth century.

Modern printing is done typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is also frequently done on metals, plastics, cloth and composite materials. On paper it is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing.

The History of Printing

Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns that was used widely throughout East Asia. It originated in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later on paper. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220 A.D.

In East Asia

The intricate frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra from Tang Dynasty China, 868 A.D. (British Library)
Main article: History of printing in East Asia
The earliest surviving woodblock printed fragments are from China. They are of silk printed with flowers in three colours from the Han Dynasty (before 220 A.D.). They are the earliest example of woodblock printing on paper appeared in the mid-seventh century in China.

By the ninth century, printing on paper had taken off, and the first extant complete printed book containing its date is the Diamond Sutra (British Library) of 868. By the tenth century, 400,000 copies of some sutras and pictures were printed, and the Confucian classics were in print. A skilled printer could print up to 2,000 double-page sheets per day.

Printing spread early to Korea and Japan, which also used Chinese logograms, but the technique was also used in Turpan and Vietnam using a number of other scripts. This technique then spread to Persia and Russia. This technique was transmitted to Europe from China, via the Islamic world, and by around 1400 was being used on paper for old master prints and playing cards. However, Arabs never used this to print the Quran because of the limits imposed by Islamic doctrine.

In the Middle East


Block printing, called tarish in Arabic developed in Arabic Egypt during the ninth-tenth centuries, mostly for prayers and amulets. There is some evidence to suggest that these print blocks made from non-wood materials, possibly tin, lead, or clay. The techniques employed are uncertain, however, and they appear to have had very little influence outside of the Muslim world. Though Europe adopted woodblock printing from the Muslim world, initially for fabric, the technique of metal block printing remained unknown in Europe. Block printing later went out of use in Islamic Central Asia after movable type printing introduced from China.

In Europe

The earliest known woodcut, 1423, Buxheim, with hand-colouring
Block printing first came to Europe as a method for printing on cloth, where it was common by 1300. Images printed on cloth for religious purposes could be quite large and elaborate. When paper became relatively easily available, around 1400, the medium transferred very quickly to small woodcut religious images and playing cards printed on paper. These prints produced in very large numbers from about 1425 onward.

Around the mid-fifteenth-century, block-books, woodcut books with both text and images, usually carved in the same block, emerged as a cheaper alternative to manuscripts and books printed with movable type. These were all short heavily illustrated works, the bestsellers of the day, repeated in many different block-book versions: the Ars moriendi and the Biblia pauperum were the most common. There is still some controversy among scholars as to whether their introduction preceded or, the majority view, followed the introduction of movable type, with the range of estimated dates being between about 1440 and 1460.

Conventional printing technology

All printing process are concerned with two kinds of areas on the final output:

Image Area (printing areas)
Non-image Area (non-printing areas)
After the information has been prepared for production (the prepress step), each printing process has definitive means of separating the image from the non-image areas.

Conventional printing has three types of process:

Planographics, in which the printing and non-printing areas are on the same plane surface and the difference between them is maintained chemically or by physical properties, the examples are: offset lithography, collotype, and screenless printing.
Relief, in which the printing